“My kid would never do that.”
We’ve all said it. We said it when we watched the baby with the gooey fingers and the knowing eyes purposefully knock the glass off the restaurant table. We said it in line at the grocery store, when the kid convulsed on the floor in anger or shrieked while shaking the metal shopping basket. We said it when they sunk their sharp milk teeth into their mother’s defeated shoulder. We clucked our tongues, shook our heads, and insisted that would never be us.
Maybe you aren’t ready to admit it, but I will. My kid has done that. She has thrown explosive fits in the most public of places. She’s looked me right in the eye while causing havoc and destruction. I’ve watched her rip pages from beloved books and tear sequins from a favorite thrift store find. She’s dumped platefuls of beans on freshly mopped floors and thrown her cup when I asked her not to a million times. She’s disassembled shelves and forced me to hide the best displayed knick knacks. She’s chosen the day where I have felt the most fragile and unraveled to throw the biggest tantrum—to empty out bags of expensive raw snacks, to slap my face, to frantically push the buttons on my phone and hang up on the person I’d been trying to reach for hours. I’ve rushed and forgotten and wanted to cry because my kid has done all the things I swore mine wouldn’t.
It isn’t because she’s a problem child or I’m raising her “wrong;” it’s because she’s becoming a person who expresses and feels and tries.
All at the expense of her once smug mother.
I wish I could go back and offer to unload that woman’s basket at the grocery store, to give her a second of partial relief while she held her spasmodic toddler. I wish I could revisit that restaurant, to give some symbol of solidarity or to explain to the service staff that the mother truly is sorry and embarrassed—and that the kid isn’t a tyrant, they’re just learning that things fall or how to signal their discomfort, boredom, or satiation. And the women who was bitten? I want to tell her I understand why she doesn’t give the lashing or the slap or whatever other form of punishment society wants her to do. I would tell her it gets better. That sometimes I can tell my daughter to not slap and she chooses to kiss instead; I ask her not to drop something and she refrains; sometimes, I say “please put that back” and she does. One day they have words and understanding, and we give it to them with all those arduous moments that we don’t want anyone else to see.